Grant, member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes,
graduated from West Point Military Academy. (courtesy photo)
Shelby Grant, member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai
Tribes, graduated from West Point Military Academy. (courtesy
WEST POINT This past weekend at West Point, New York,
Shelby Lee Grant, a member of the Salish, Pend d'Oreille and
Kootenai tribal confederacy, joined the hallowed and not
so hallowed ranks of some major historical military leaders
when he graduated from the U.S. Military Academy.
The hallowed include, among others, World War II icon and Southwest
Pacific Theater commander, General Douglas MacArthur, and the not
so hallowed from an American Indian perspective include
among others, Indian fighter and commander of the 7th Cavalry General
George Armstrong Custer.
Ronan High School graduate Grant has been walking in the historical
shadows of military leaders like MacArthur and Custer since entering
the Military Academy four years ago. What direction his military
future goes is unknown but what is known is that he is the first
member of the Flathead Nation to graduate from the iconic academy.
And he was one of 14 American Indians presently at West Point.
Grant and his graduating class, and members of the public, were
all ears when retired U.S. Marine four-star General James "Mad
Dog" Mattis, who is now the U.S. Secretary of Defense, delivered
the commencement address.
In his speech Maddis referenced the terrorist attack in Manchester,
England that killed 22 people at a concert. He told the 950 graduates
that, "Manchester's tragic loss underscores the purpose
of your years of study and training at this elite school. We must
never permit murderers to define our time or warp our sense of normal.
This is not normal. You will drive home a salient point that free
men and women will volunteer to fight, ethically and fiercely, to
defend our experiment that you and I call, simply, 'America.'
We Americans are not cotton candy. Our enemies are watching. By
your commitment, you will prove the enemy wrong. Dead wrong."
Following graduation, 2nd Lt. Grant will have a 60-day leave
then will report to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for the 19-week
Basic Office Leadership Course. Upon completion of the BOLC, Grant
will be assigned to Fort Bliss, Texas where he will be a staff officer
in 1st Armored Division. The 1st Armored Division returned to America
in 2011 after 40 years on the front lines of the Cold War in Germany.
Grant, a 2013 graduate of Ronan High School, enrolled at West
Point in October 2013. Grant was an outstanding wrestler at RHS
who also participated in football and track.
"I was really excited to go to a great school," he
said of his acceptance at West Point. His acceptance included a
full ride scholarship, a $900 a month stipend and a five-year service
"It has been a challenge," he said. "The first
year was the hardest year; we were not treated very well and we
had a lot of restrictions. But after that it has been all down hill."
Grant said he hasn't made up his mind about his military
future beyond the five-year commitment.
"I am not sure if I'll make a career out of this,"
he said. "I will see how it goes. I'll roll with the punches.
If I like it, I will stay in the Army."
A typical day at West Point begins at 7 a.m. with reveille and
formation, followed by breakfast. Then it's onto classes till
the noon hour break for lunch. Following lunch there is an hour
of briefing then classes till 4 p.m. At 4 p.m. the cadets engage
in drills or intermural sports before calling it a day. The evenings
belong to the cadets unless something is scheduled for them.
"It's been a lot of hard work but in the end it's
been worth it," Grant said. "At the end of the day I feel
really good about my self and what I have accomplished."
Grant is one of 14 American Indian enrolled in the Military
Academy. There is the Native American Heritage Forum that serves
as an educational and social support system. The American Indian
students host an annual powwow and attend other powwows in the area.
They also attend and host conferences and educational forums. The
NAHF is open to all cadets who are interested in American Indian
culture and heritage. The NAHF sponsored events are open to all
cadets, faculty and community members.
In order to be considered for acceptance at West Point, Grant
had to be nominated for entry by one of Montana's three congressional
delegates. Once nominated he had to do a lot of paperwork, write
three essays and be interviewed.
"I have met a lot of interesting people here and have had
a lot of neat experiences," Grant said. "The neatest experience
I've had was when President (Barack) Obama gave the commencement
speech a couple of years ago."
Grant is the son of Lee Grant and the late Deana Marie Streets;
his siblings are Karmen Matt Shepard, Trystan Garcia, Kimber Lee
Grant, and Rope Ardis.
Some famous and infamous graduates of the U.S. Military Academy,
include poet Edgar Allan Poe, Indian fighter General George Armstrong
Custer, WWII icon General Douglas MacArthur, Confederate Army General
Robert E. Lee, U.S. President and Union Army General Ulysses S.
Grant, Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, Rebel-
and Indian-fighter General William Tecumseh Sherman and astronaut
and second person to walk on the moon, Buzz Aldrin.